Spontaneous Campground Jams
I hitched up the bass boat and tossed in the camping basics, grabbed my acoustic guitar, and jumped on the freeway. It was the fastest I have ever gotten out of town. This was on a Friday, with cold rain in the forecast Saturday noon. I needed to get in one last camping trip this year. I swung by to pick up Feral and he tossed in his gear along with a borrowed classical guitar and we set up our tents at campsite one on Big Leverentz. Feral put the classical guitar in his tent and I mentioned he should keep it locked in the truck but he wasn’t too concerned.
We launched the boat and hit the lake with high expectations. I think the fish must have decided to go camping too, in the middle of the lake. Discouraged, we went back to shore and ate a sub sandwich and downed a beer. A stranger walked by and mentioned that he thought he saw a guitar case earlier when we were setting up. The reason he mentioned it was he and his buddy also brought guitars. They were camping too. We told him to stop by later if they wanted to jam.
After dark we pulled out the guitars and set a small lantern in the fire pit as we didn’t have logs for a fire, but the ambiance was still good, in part made so by the warm night and cold beer. It helped there were no bugs out, mosquitoes or otherwise. We played a couple songs and soon the other camper, Kyle, showed up carrying a guitar case. He apologized saying his buddy had crashed out early but he wanted to stop by. That was a shame because based on Kyle’s description of his buddy, we had a lot of music in common, including Jethro Tull which may not be familiar to a lot of people.
Kyle, though, was into blues and said he was working on some patterns. I wouldn’t call either Feral or myself bluesmen and don’t recollect whether we even played any blues, but we played the heck out of some songs and got to know Kyle who added some tasty lead licks here and there. As happens most times, Feral started telling stories and Kyle had some himself so there was no dead space between jams and pretty soon our limited supply of beer was the only source of blues for the entire evening. As the beer disappeared and the guitar playing sounded better and better, Feral and Kyle both indicated, in subtle competitiveness, how each had started drinking at an earlier hour that day than the other guy, so that was a running joke, which sounds lame in the telling but was funny if you were there and under the influence. When I say influence, I mean everything: camping, night air, starlit sky, crossing paths with someone you didn’t know 5 hours earlier, who just happen to glimpse a guitar case, and who turns out to be a guitar player willing to take a chance and play guitar with two strangers.
Spontaneous jams – this has happened before at Leverentz Lake. One year we set up at Little Leverentz and a young couple noticed we had instruments and stopped to ask if we “jammed.” Sure! So they stopped over and she played mandolin (which Feral played at the time) and the young man played an acoustic guitar that he had strung with nylon strings for the high b and e strings, which produced some interesting tones. We had a good jam that lasted pretty late, partly because some other young campers across from us came over and so that jam turned into an all out campground party. I don’t know what time we crashed out but a thunderstorm rolled in that night that literally shook the ground with shock waves. Feral and I had an old cabin tent and that fell down on top of us. When we crawled out in the morning trees were down and the young couple camping next to us were gone – but left their tent there. I suspect the violent storm was a bit much for them and they found a motel. A smart decision in retrospect.
Another night, Feral and I camped at site two on Big Leverentz, which is on a hill and somewhat remote from the other campsites. The whole campground appeared empty. We had some electric guitars and battery powered amps and got a little loud. Suddenly we saw a lantern wobbling down the road to our site. Three young guys, around high school age, came into camp and said they heard us jamming and could they listen? They did more than listen, one said he was a guitarist so we handed him a guitar and he cranked out some Creedence and various other jams and that turned out to be pretty interesting night also.